Politics & Government

NC lawmakers want kids to be able to miss school to watch them be sworn in

Some North Carolina lawmakers want to make sure that children aren’t penalized with an unexcused absence if they miss school to watch a relative be sworn in as a state legislator.

House Bill 151, filed last week, would require the State Board of Education to draft rules that would make attending a General Assembly sponsored legislative event an excused absence from school. The legislation also says that school districts can’t count excused absences from attending legislative events against students in any local student attendance recognition programs.

State law currently includes being a governor’s page or legislative page as reasons for excused absences. But the new bill would expand the definition to include “an event sanctioned by at least one chamber of the North Carolina General Assembly that a student attends for an educational, civic, or familial purpose.”

The bill includes being a legislative page as one example. But new examples include attending the legislative swearing-in ceremony of a parent or grandparent and attending an event in which the student’s relative is receiving special recognition by the General Assembly.

Rep. Donny Lambeth, a Forsyth County Republican and the bill’s primary sponsor, said the bill was suggested by a person who told him that school districts were inconsistent in how they treated absences by students who came to Raleigh for legislative events.

“With students who work for perfect attendance or exam exemptions, the inconsistent treatment becomes a detriment to attending events in the General Assembly,” Lambeth said in an email message Tuesday. “So this bill is directing DPI (state Department of Public Instruction) to create a consistent way to handle a day out of school.”

Several lawmakers brought their children with them to Raleigh to watch them be sworn in on the first day of this year’s legislative session in January.

“I’m glad we have more NCGA members with kids in our public schools,” tweeted James Barrett, a Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board member who plans to run for the Democratic nomination for state schools superintendent. “Also glad they are engaged in real-life civics. But aren’t there more important #nced issues to address?”

The bill has been referred to the House Education Committee.

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T. Keung Hui has covered K-12 education for the News & Observer since 1999, helping parents, students, school employees and the community understand the vital role education plays in North Carolina. His primary focus is Wake County, but he also covers statewide education issues.